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Using Online Courses to Fast Track Career Goals

Using Online Courses to Fast Track Career Goals

Preparation and Opportunity Meet for Mackenzie

In high school, Mackenzie had the grades and determination to get into her top-choice four-year college. She looked forward to having a dorm room, campus life, and engaging classes that would prepare her for a career as a special education teacher. But like many students, the high price of tuition at a traditional college campus just wasn’t in Mackenzie’s budget and she had to shift her focus. With hard work and motivation, what initially seemed like a setback began to transform into just the opportunity Mackenzie needed to emerge as a leader.

After Mackenzie learned that her family couldn’t swing the tuition at her top-choice school, her mother encouraged her to look at community college options that were close to her hometown of Merrimack, New Hampshire. Ultimately, she landed at Nashua Community College (NCC).

I never expected to be at a community college. I always wanted to be where my friends were, a four-year institution, but this dream was not affordable. I had to consider other possibilities and I am so glad I did.

Despite the fact that it wasn’t what she envisioned, Mackenzie began her college journey at NCC where she focused on special education. She was drawn to special education because of her family’s particular connection with Special Olympics of New Hampshire.

My younger brother has autism and a traumatic brain injury, so I had a lot of exposure to the special education field. Being part of that community had a tremendous influence on me and shaped my early career goals.

However, once Mackenzie started taking electives, she became fascinated with psychology and gravitated toward courses that focused on understanding human behavior and mental health issues. Around the same time, Mackenzie was offered the opportunity to work as a clerk in NCC’s Admission Office. She was able to engage with other students and get exposure to the wide selection of clubs and activities that were available.

I discovered a whole side of student life at NCC that I didn’t expect from the community college. I got involved in every club and went on every trip, and began to take full advantage of that experience. I gave student tours and really fell in love with helping people connect to the NCC campus and everything it has to offer.

Through her work in Admissions (and later Financial Aid) she gained an understanding of the inner workings of the college. All of these experiences together—student leadership opportunities, psychology and education coursework, and the operations of each department—started to align: Mackenzie began to develop a vision for how she could work towards a career in higher education administration.

Upon completing her associate degree, an AmeriCorps position became available and staff members encouraged her to apply. It was headquartered within the Student Life Office and focused on the leadership and management of NCC’s various clubs and student engagement efforts.

My love for the higher education field grew stronger and stronger and I was able to gain experience in a lot of areas. I've led a group of students to rebuild homes in Houston, Texas, after the hurricane. I was also able to teach a class on service learning as part of my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

During this exciting and busy time, Mackenzie was also pursuing her bachelor’s degree at full force. She wanted an affordable, quality degree that offered online courses so she could balance work and school. Mackenzie found each of these attributes in Granite State College and was able to transfer her college credits from NCC, forging a natural transition. She also started to refine her career goals and map out a plan for achieving them. From selecting a major—B.S. in Psychology and B.S. in Business Management—to community involvement, she tailored each step towards accelerating her professional development.

I believe the more opportunities I pursue, the more experience I’ll get. I’m on the Merrimack School District Budget Committee and serve as Granite State’s student representative for the Board of Trustees of the University System. Each opportunity leads me one step closer to where I eventually want to be.

With less than a year before graduation, Mackenzie is already building a foundation for the next phase of her education and career. She’s applying for master’s programs in higher education administration and political science and getting involved in with a congressional candidate campaign. Mackenzie looks forward to integrating each student, civic, volunteer, and career engagement opportunity into one, overall vision for her future.

My goal is to break into the higher education field as soon as I can to help other students achieve their potential. I want to be the type of leader students can approach if they’re struggling and they'll know that my door is always open. We need to make every college student feel welcome and I hope to be part of making that happen.

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